7th Pavia Graduate Conference in Political Philosophy – Abstract/Cummine

Angela Cummine

A Citizen’s Stake in Sovereign Wealth

The aim of this paper is to consider the philosophical basis for redistribution of sovereign wealth to national citizens. Over the past decade, sovereign wealth has come to constitute one of the most significant new sources of capital in the global economy. Today, at least fifty governments have assets under management in Sovereign Wealth Funds (SWFs), government-owned investment funds, with almost two thirds of SWFs created since 2000. At the same time, a growing corpus of utopian political philosophers have imagined the state amassing wealth in government owned ‘community funds’ in order to finance generous redistributive schemes, with little or no reference to the SWF development in public finance. It is therefore timely to shift the community fund idea out of the utopian realm and consider whether the capital in SWFs offers a possible candidate for egalitarian redistribution. This paper attempts to do so by examining one set of possible grounds for establishing a citizen entitlement to sovereign wealth. Given that the majority of sovereign wealth is derived from commodity trading, I draw on the insights of Left-Libertarianism in relation to egalitarian ownership of natural resources, in particular the version advocated by Michael Otsuka, to show that citizens enjoy a moral claim over governments to the wealth currently in SWFs.